The next time you see a guy getting drunk or high, you should think, “I wonder if he’s trying to not feel right now.” And if he’s your friend, maybe you should ask him.
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Okay, so I won’t avoid my emotions anymore. Now what am I supposed to do with them? Some emotions are like the green light on a traffic signal. When you feel happy, excited, or peaceful, that means GO. Keep doing whatever you were doing. And enjoy the feeling.
Emotions like fear, sadness and anger are like a yellow light. SLOW DOWN. Figure out what needs to change. You might even want to STOP. Especially if something gets you so angry that you feel like you might lose control. Don’t just keep going, business as usual, like everything’s okay.
Sometimes, though, your actions will have to keep moving on. You will still have to go to work and school, and still have to take care of your kids. But even then, your brain should slow down, and pay closer attention to how you’re feeling and what might need to change. A lot of times our bodies know what we feel before our minds do.
Everybody’s body works differently, but there are several areas you should pay attention to. Your temperature. If you start to feel warm, it might mean you’re nervous or angry about something. And your heartbeat might get faster if you’re nervous or excited. Your whole body might respond to sadness—you’ll have low energy and feel slow, like you’re carrying extra weight.
For me, my stomach is the place I feel a lot of my emotions. I can be in the middle of a normal conversation, everything is fine, then I’ll feel a quick, sharp, tight pain in the middle of my stomach. Then in my mind I say, “Hmm, that’s interesting; something doesn’t feel right. Am I nervous? I wonder why…” And since my stomach is such an important place for my emotional signals, I have to be careful what I put in there. If I fill it up with crappy food and drink, then I won’t get as clear a signal. That’s why people fast (like Ramadan or Lent) when they want extra clarity. Your diet, physical health and emotional health are all connected.
This is an except from Lady’s Man: Conversations for Young Black Men About Relationships and Manhood. To purchase, click here.
Dr. Cartman is a father, son, brother, uncle, thinker, writer, therapist, photographer, and drummer. He is a Chicago native, where his cultural and educational foundations were firmly planted by several African-centered institutions and communities. He received his undergraduate degree from Hampton University and a PH.D in clinical & community psychology from Georgia State University. Currently Dr. Cartman works as a restorative justice coach for Chicago Public Schools and is the author the book and mixtape “Lady’s Man: Conversations for Young Black Men About Relationships and Manhood.” To learn more, visit www.DrObariCartman.com.